Monday, August 8, 2011

Venomous Fish! #28 Margined Madtom

The quest went to the Merrimack River in search of carp, walleye, and any other fish that were still missing. We were fishing at one of our favorite spots on the river, the Amoskeag Fishways.
Water is low at the Amoskeag Dam and Fishway in the summer on the Merrimack River

As night fell some fishermen were catching walleye up near the fish ladder, which is totally illegal but looked fun.

Not to be dejected we searched the rocks for one of our favorite weird fish in New Hampshire, the margined madtom. These little catfish are only 6 inches long and have sharp spines that deliver a mild venom.
He can fit in the palm of your hand, but watch out.
We have been stung by these fish and we would liken the feeling to a bee sting.  When we caught this one on a small bit of worm and tiny hook it flipped wildly. We think that fast flipping is intended to stab predators trying to hold them. A spine in the cheek of a mink would be painful!

The venomous spines are on the top and both sides (pectoral fins)
Ours was a monstrous, 4 inches.

Besides the longer body, we could tell this was not a tadpole madtom by the black margins on the tail and anal fin. 
To subdue the little catfish for pictures we put it in the freezer. Hopefully it was a fairly humane way to be killed for the cold blooded animal. It only took a few minutes.   We would have used a knife, but the fish is so small it is difficult to sever the brain stem without destroying the head.

Catfish in a freezer bag.  

A good safe way to get a good look at these fish is in a freezer bag. 

The margined madtom is really a handsome fish. Very clean, smooth skin.

 We are not sure how we are going to prepare this fish for the table, but we do want to do some research on the venom. It would be a shame to die during the quest because we ate a poisonous madtom (sounds like a segment on "1000 Ways to Die"). We hope we can carve out the poison glands like the Japanese chefs do for the deadly puffer fish.

 If you don't hear from us again, you know what happened.


  1. Awesome catch, I must say I am quite jealous.
    Thanks for the info on the bait you used. I've been trying to catch a madtom myself. Do you remember how you placed the baited hook? Like did you have it casted out sitting on the bottom amongst the rocks or did you try and place it exactly near a certain rock? Was the bait sitting still on the bottom or did you slowly move it around? And if its not to much to ask do you remember the hook size? Thanks for any info and good luck with the other species.

  2. Hey Levi,
    This is one of our favorite fish. To catch this tie a #20 hook on 2lb test, tip the hook with a tiny piece of worm and use a tiny split shot to get the hook down. We sight fish for these, so find a spot at dusk that might have them, shine a light around and bounce the worm in front of the fish, they're pretty aggressive, when they bite set the hook and pull the fish out.

  3. Thanks that is very helpful, Im surprised but really shouldn't be by the lack of info on the internet about fishing for madtoms. And the light method I have actually been using quite a bit lately and have ended up catching more fish on my life list then I do fishing during the day.
    Thanks for all the posts on here and the micro fishing page on Facebook. The info has really been a blessing to perfect my micro fishing techniques. Keep up the awesome work.

  4. Will do, we're going to spend a lot of the next year writing about technique, so stay tuned...
    BTW We love the micro-fishing guys, it's so interesting and fun

  5. Good afternoon. Don't know if anyone will answer this but I'd like to catch some of these madtoms for my native fish tank. What would be the best method. It'll have to be daytime. Trap ? Dip netting under rocks? Micro fishing ?